Updated: Jan 22
In the first reading of this 17th Sunday in ordinary times, Year C (Genesis 18:16 -33), the very first paragraph reads, “In those days, the Lord said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.’”
This statement from God is so instructive about the way we should conduct our affairs under the sun. You might ask, “Why does God have to check things out first. Isn’t He an all-knowing God? Here is what I think! When God appeared to Abraham he did so in the form of a man (a Theophany) and therefore had to use human ways to communicate with him. But what is most important, in this conversation, is that God shows Abraham that He does not act out of ignorance, hearsay, gossip, or slander. His relationship with man is not a game of chance. He examines the facts personally, judges fairly, acts justly, and is absolutely fair in His decisions. This is how we should be with one another.
The story has it that one day, Socrates, a Greek philosopher, met one of his acquaintances on his way to meet with his students. The acquaintance said to him, “Sir, do you know what I just heard about your friend, Dio……? Socrates said, “No, but before you tell me, please answer these questions. “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?" The man said “No” and that he had actually just heard the rumor. Socrates then asked, “Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?" The man said “No, quite on the contrary”. Socrates then said, “Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?" The man said, "Not really." "Well then," continued Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"
My friends, you cannot control the extent to which your gossip can spread and you cannot undo the damage done by it. Therefore, it is absolutely important that we form the habit of vetting gossips before we give them more life. God holds inquest about our moral condition and the complaints about us to Him before He judges, and so should we do to one another.
You see, gossip is generally negatively evaluative, morally laden, and usually concerned with the behavior and report about an absent third party. It is discreet indiscretion, a way of spreading negativities about others. So, as dictated by the behavior of our God, in this first reading, gossips need to be investigated, vetted, and proven before we become unwitting agents of its dissemination. The damage it can do, when false, is irreparable. It is better for us to err on the side of caution than to be the agents of a fellow’s destruction. The bible says, “The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna”. May the good Lord save us from the damage we can do to others with our tongue.